EsVolta, a California company, got mixed reviews by the Sandoval County Commissioners at their last meeting.
The company, which develops, owns and runs utility-scale battery energy storage nationwide, was approved by the commissioners in a split vote.
It also sparked some controversy.
Commissioner Jay Block said he believes lithium mining is morally wrong. He said that China’s communism keeps him from saying yes to these kinds of plans.
“This is evil,” he said.
He also said that he couldn’t in good conscious vote yes because “China uses African children” to mine for the lithium.
Vice Chair Commissioner David Heil disagreed with Block, however. He suggested that the U.S. is not innocent when it comes to mining lithium.
“There is a refusal to allow new mining here in the states. Until we resolve that issue, I think we’re kind-of stuck with trying to support our electric grid,” he said.
The vote was three in favor — Heil, Michael Meek, and Kathrine Bruch — to two against, Block and Kenneth Eichwald.
This is the company’s third time asking the Sandoval County Commission since May 2021 to change zoning so the company can build a project in RR. The project has been postponed twice because of questions from the commissioners. This meeting, which was on Aug. 24, gave them an opportunity to answer all the questions.
EsVolta’s projects provide services for electric utilities and large energy users including on-demand capacity, energy arbitrage and ancillary grid support services.
The company says battery storage reduces reliance on gas generation during periods of peak electricity demand and decreases wasteful cycling of gas-fired generation. It also avoids need for new fossil fuel plants.
The project for RR will be located next to the PNM power substation that is a few miles west of Northern Meadows.
Representatives who spoke on behalf of EsVolta’s said the battery storage unit will not be near neighborhoods and does not pose a danger to residents. They also do not need to be serviced or supervised by workers.
“The most noise neighborhoods might hear is the construction of the project,” said Laurie Moye, who represented EsVolta.
The concern from the Sandoval County Commission though is about the lithium .
Lithium is an element mined in many parts of the world. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, it was discovered from a mineral, while other common alkali metals were discovered from plant material.
The society says that in part because of lithium’s small size (third only to hydrogen and helium), Li-ion batteries are capable of having a high voltage and charge storage per unit mass and unit volume.
Lithium ion batteries tend to last longer and are a cleaner form of energy compared to gas-based forms and it used in many products such as your smartphone. The battery in an IPhone and Android is lithium ion. Electric cars are also known to use lithium batteries because it is sustainable.